Gilbert & George

A Portrait of the Artists as Young Men


Not on display

Gilbert & George born 1943, born 1942
Video, monitor, black and white and sound (mono)
Duration: 7 min.
Purchased 1972

Display caption

Gilbert & George’s art is a form of self-portraiture, since they almost always feature in their own work. They have said that ‘it’s all one big portrait’. They see no separation between their activities as artists and their everyday existence. In 1969, they began to present themselves as ‘living sculptures’ and developed the mask-like personas that are presented here. The title of this work suggests a painting rather than a video, and the slowed-down action suggests the long, scrutinizing gaze of an artist examining his model.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

Gilbert and George b.1943 and 1942

T01704 A Portrait of the Artists as Young Men 1972

½ in. black and white video tape recording, 7 minutes duration.
Purchased from Nigel Greenwood Inc. Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1972.

The video tape is accompanied by a printed certificate as for T01702 and T01703 with the following changes. In the bottom left-hand corner is the instruction: ‘This tape should be viewed with/”high contrast” as in this photograph’. ‘George’ precedes ‘Gilbert’ in the inscription.

The instruction to view the tape with ‘high contrast’ is given because the piece was recorded with bright photographic lights which reflect off the sculptors’ faces and reduce the definition of the picture. As in T01702 and T01703, the camera was stationary during the recording; however, the sculptors slowly turned their heads to produce the different angles, a procedure used in the video tape of ‘Underneath the Arches’.

The sound track of thunder and rain was taken from a sound effects record bought especially for the purpose. Thunder is a very emotional sound for the sculptors. As for the title, it was chosen, they said ‘just in terms of the nerves!’ and continued: ‘We’re so interested in portraiture. It’s all one big portrait’.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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